Washington, October 1 : Female candidates use "masculine" communication strategies during political debates, while their males counterparts adopt a "feminine style", according to a new study.
Mitchell McKinney, associate professor of communication at the University of Missouri, came to this conclusion after examining candidates engaged in televised, mixed-gender campaign debates, which included U.S. Senate and gubernatorial debates.
"In politics, the stereotypical 'masculine' traits of being tough and ambitious, as well as having strong leadership and administrative skills, are more highly valued over the so-called 'feminine' traits of being compassionate and family-oriented, and possessing strong people skills," said McKinney, who conducted the study along with Mary Banwart, communication professor at the University of Kansas.
The study, published in the journal Communication Studies, found that female candidates issued personal attacks of their male opponents in their debate responses 58 percent of the time, compared with male candidates who attacked their female opponents in 45 percent of their debate responses.
Female candidates were more likely to raise traditional "masculine" issues, such as crime, defense, taxes and budget issues, than male candidates.
The researchers also found that female candidates were more likely to tout their own experience and accomplishments than their male counterparts.
"By being the more aggressive debater, shying away from the so-called 'feminine' issues and adopting strategies that focus on their experience, these women are trying to overcome traditional notions that question a female candidate's governing competence. They also are challenging the stereotype that male candidates possess greater strength or political ability and have greater political experience," McKinney said.
Male candidates were more likely to emphasize feminine traits, such as sensitivity and cooperation, in selling themselves.
According to the researchers, men were more likely to address so-called "feminine" issues, such as women's issues, health care and education, than the female candidates.
"This study suggests that when female and male candidates meet face-to-face on the debate stage, both seem mindful of gendered stereotypes and respond with a strategy of gendered adaptiveness - with each adopting communication strategies and styles characteristically attributed to the opposite gender," McKinney said.